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Modern Re-Run

Recently, USA started replaying Modern Family.

This was great because it isn’t on netflix, or really any other channel besides the one it airs on, so it was a chance to see a lot of episodes I’d never seen as I was never a religious viewer, but had always enjoyed what I had witnessed. I started to tune in every day at dinner and I realized very quickly that I’d see the same episodes almost daily. Then I realized this actually happens a LOT with shows that are still on the air but are now syndicated, like How I Met Your Mother. It hit me that the reason for this is a brilliant marketing ploy. 
Think about it…you never really watch the show simply because you either work, or are just busy with life in general, or maybe you were interested but missed it when it started and now simply can’t catch up because of the means of catching up (don’t wanna buy the DVD or iTunes or whatever). A dozen simple and logical reasons you didn’t watch it. So what do the networks do? They syndicate shows to other networks and the other networks promote it as saying, “Modern Family is now on USA!”. You get all excited and want to watch it now, until you realize it actually is, “5 episodes of Modern Family are now on USA!” and so you get tired of those episodes quickly, and want to see new ones, but you still don’t wanna pay for them. What do you do? You find out when new episodes air and you start to tune into those.
I mean, it really is absolutely brilliant. I think a lot of this is now happening thanks to Family Guy having been on Adult Swim. They gained a ton of viewership, people actually went and bought the DVDS and Fox brought the show back from cancelation! The show may be hurting for views or not-I don’t really know, honestly-but it does bring in new viewers who hunger for episodes they don’t have to pay for and aren’t the same ones they’ve already been subjected to 80 thousand times. It’s also a way to get around licensing your product to things like Netflix, which come with HUGE tags. Netflix will put your program on their service for a yearly fee but it also will expire and NBC will have to renew it (which may cost more, I don’t know) and it keeps people who have Netflix from buying the DVDs or iTunes or Amazon episodes because why pay for something if you can have it for 7 dollars a month along with tons of other content. So they skirt around that danger zone by simply syndicating it and then gaining more viewers for new episodes via their syndication.
For once, it’s a marketing ploy I don’t have a problem with, because it’s worked. I now generally tune into new episodes when they air. Well done.

Why Jumanji, The Mummy & Avatar Are Important

Rotten Tomatoes is both a godsend AND a curse. On one hand, they can save you from watching a legitimately atrocious movie such as The Unborn or Suckerpunch, but then they praise other movies too highly (Cabin in the Woods) and give actually somewhat decent movies too low of a score. It’s all because it’s user based and the user rating is what the people visiting the site pay attention to. There are 3 films in particular that I’d like to discuss, 2 of which have a pretty low score and the other has a high score but is panned by the people who saw it and critics alike. Those films are Jumanji, Avatar and The Mummy (not in the correct order). Avatar has an 83%, Jumanji has a 50% and The Mummy has a 55%. 

Both The Mummy and Jumanji are actually rated higher than I thought they’d be, as they’re right on the cusp of being rotten AND fresh, but they are-using the RT system-considered rotten. However, both these films are incredibly enjoyable, entertaining and easy to watch, and they both came out in the mid to late 90s, when we were trying to push our technology with graphics and cgi and special affects forward, so that movies like Avatar could be made. That’s why-despite the rotten rating and the fact that they’re actually pretty enjoyable-these films are VERY important. Yes, Jumanji and The Mummy are both incredibly silly and often times off the wall cheesy but it WAS the 90s. Yet, I will show Jumanji to my children and I STILL love The Mummy. Both are so fun to watch, and both have special effects (well, Jumanjis CGI stuff anyway) that hold up EXTREMELY well comparatively today.

This is why these films are important.

Take away the ratings and you’re left with movies that had to exist purely to push our technological advancements forward. I believe Roger Ebert said about Jumanji that the director had made a career off flashy big budget special affects films and the film is lifeless and dreadful, and while he has a standard point-films don’t NEED special affects to be great, or any effects at all-he’s also missing the fact that without movies like those then, we wouldn’t have the effects we have today. That’s a big thing. These films deserve the credit for taking the chance of pushing our special effects forward and being pioneers in a way. Also, there’s a BIG difference between a “film” and a “movie”. All 3 of these are movies. They aren’t meant to be artistic or life changing. They’re just meant to be entertaining. That’s why as kind of shitty as Avatar was and the pans it got, it was still decent because it was entertaining. Films are things that make you think and make you look at the world in a new fresh perspective. Things that are artistic like “The Artist” or “Citizen Kane” or “Gravity”. These are films.

Avatar is a whole other beast, though, because while the movie went on to be the highest grossing movie of all time, it’s not by ANY means a “great artistic endeavor”. I understand the rating it has because it’s certainly a mainstream hit. It was a cultural thing to go see. Plus, with James Camerons name attached it was a surefire box office draw, which usually happens with these insanely respected directors. BUT...I also understand the pans it got. It has a LOT of flaws. I mean, all I REALLY have to say is the “unobtainium” (which may have been named to BE bad on purpose, I don’t know) and you get the problems. It’s a formulaic story we’ve all seen a billion times before. It’s Pocahontas meets Ferngully in space. I don’t like any of those things and I don’t want the meeting anywhere, much less in space. In fact, it’s SO formulaic, and we all know it so well, any one of us could’ve sat down after seeing that trailer and wrote that script, almost beat for beat.

BUT, it needs the credit for doing what it did technologically. Avatar to me is the payoff for things like Jumanji and The Mummy. We saw the beginning and the end result, and we’ll see even more of the end result later on down the road. Someday something will come along with the effects of a movie and the artistic integrity of a film and be a perfect 100%. Life of Pi has already set us further down that path. Hugo was a great example. Shit, even A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is a wonderful example of it, and that was eons before Avatar.

So yes, these movies may not be great and they may not be the best things you’ve ever seen, but give credit where credit is due because without movies like these, we wouldn’t have the effects we have today.

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Bully: Review

There are some documentaries that become commercial and mainstream to the point where you question if they’re legitimate. Supersize Me would probably be the best example, where years afterwards a lot of Spurlocks statements and research has been debunked, or so they say, but the thing about Supersize Me is it was pretty entertaining, and Spurlock is a pretty cool guy. The Cove would be another good one. Completely from the american point of view, and not going into the history of the japanese food culture itself, The Cove is another mainstream documentary that shows that these pander to people who don’t want both sides of the story. They simply buy whatever they are told and shown on screen. Who are WE to say what people can and cannot eat, or how they do it? Japanese people have been catching and eating dolphin for thousands of years. I guarantee you that if tomorrow someone made a documentary about cows, we’d all still go eat cow. We wouldn’t stop.

But the best example would be the 2011 documentary Bully. Unlike the other 2-which did actually have some good messages in them-this thing pissed me off. When this thing caught fire, it began the anti bully campaign that I LOATH. As someone who was bullied, you’d think I’d be all for it, except nobody made laws for me and the other kids. Nobody made a documentary. Nobody GAVE A SHIT. Kids need to learn to handle things on their own; survival of the fittest. It’s harsh, yeah, but it’s the world. Otherwise, everytime your kid comes into a problem even as an adult they’re going to think they can run to mommy and daddy, which is half the problem because by bringing in parents-as they did at some points in this film-and getting the bullies in trouble, all you’re doing is making the bullies ANGRIER and they’re going to hurt your kid more.

Opening rant aside, I HATED this documentary. I found it INCREDIBLY one sided, biased to the “victims” and you’re trying to stop something that has gone on forever and will never be fully stopped. It’s completely biased towards the “victims” of bullying, because they make the bullies in this film out to be these absolutely terrible kids who just hurt other kids, but where’s THOSE kids side of the story? Actions have reactions. There’s a reason someone does something. Perhaps those bullies are being bullied themselves or facing abuse at home. But do we see that? Does it ever even COME UP? NO. It doesn’t. We’re supposed to just buy it at face value that these kids are evil, awful, heartless people and they don’t deserve any sympathy. It’s so wrong. Not only that, but these kids are caught on camera saying things like, “I’m gonna stab you” and “you’re my bitch”. I’m sorry, but kids are smart. I guarantee you-even if they were told to just act like they normally do-no kid, NO KID WOULD EVER, allow themselves to be caught on tape saying and doing the things they were caught saying and doing. They know there’s repercussions to that. Imagine if their parents saw it! This documentary is selling a point of view.

And that’s the problem with mainstream documentaries I feel. Documentaries are supposed to show you something and allow you to see both sides of it and decide where you fall on how you feel about it. These mainstream documentaries-bully, the cover, supersize me-they don’t do that. They don’t sell truth, they sell biased one sided opinions and then attack anyone who says that’s wrong. That’s the other thing I really hate about the anti bully campaign. If you say you’re against it-even for good reasons-the anti bully people are bullies themselves, because they will verbally abuse you to the point where you just give in and have to be for anti bullying. It’s sickening. It’s downright sickening. You’re not allowed to have an opinion in these matters. Just shut up and follow the crowd. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; you’re our enemy.

How is that RIGHT?

AND…and this is the worst part to me…the director of this film said he made it because he himself was a victim of bullying. Ok, I can get behind that.  For sure. It’s therapy. As a writer, as an artist, I can TOTALLY get behind that. But then he goes and makes this movie with the hopes that he can shed light and open eyes to this “epidemic” that has been going on forever and maybe better things. Alright, he didn’t do it in the best way, but his intentions were good, right? That does count for something. But then he SELLS IT. I’m sorry, I understand movies need to be profitable, but this is the thing that bugs me, because as Kyle said so well in South Park’s parody of the anti bully campaign episode: “If this video needs to be seen by everyone, why don’t you put it on the internet for free?” To which Stan had no reply. It boils down to pure market capitalism. This is darwinian capitalism at it’s finest. I get you need to recoup your cash from making this thing, but yeah, if it’s THAT important you wanna make THAT big a difference…shouldn’t it be easily accessible to everyone who needs to see it? Sure, a movie ticket is 8 bucks or so, but that 8 dollars still holds people from going to see this thing.

Bully isn’t without merit. It shows something that is a problem, for sure, but it shows in the wrong way, and it ultimately is only making the problem WORSE. “Raising awareness”? I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure people are AWARE of bullying, cancer and aids. What we need are SOLUTIONS. Not awareness. Do I have solutions? No. Nobody really does. We deal with it. It’s a part of life and it makes us stronger.

Bully tried, but it didn’t work.


Juno Vs. The Film World

There’s a few people in the film industry who I think get hated on purely because it’s considered “cool” to hate them. Wes Anderson for example, is one of the ones I hear the most but honestly-and this is coming from a girl who went to film school and has made video content herself-almost all his films are totally fine. Andersons work is cool too because he’s got the Tim Burton disease (the “this is all i know how to do and i’m gonna beat you over the head with it”) where once you’ve seen one of his films, you’ve kind of seen them all, but not to the degree Burton has, because, while Anderson does make quirky indie films, each one of his films is different enough that you could mistake it for someone elses work. Example: The Life Aquatic was shot kind of open, and with some handheld, and on a larger scale and unless I knew who made it going in, I’m not sure I could’ve figured it out BECAUSE Moonrise Kingdom is EXACTLY the opposite. It’s tight, and concise and claustrophobic almost. It feels like a play. Two movies, made by the same guy and they feel extremely different. That’s talent.

But then there’s another person who gets shit on rather constantly by the mainstream audience, and that person is Diablo Cody. Now, it’s understandable to not enjoy something just because it’s “not your thing”. I get that. Some people just don’t like quirky independent flicks. Alright. But the criticisms I’ve read-from legitimate reviewers-is almost…sad. Juno in particular doesn’t deserve HALF the hate it gets. First off, one of the main criticisms I read constantly is that the dialogue in the film isn’t believable to real teenagers. Well, I’ll have you know I was a teenager when this came out, and uh, yes, it IS. That WAS how people talked. Maybe not to that exact degree, as Codys writing was almost an over the top parody of the teen vernacular, but it was pretty similar. The ironic thing here is the people making this criticism are 40 year old film critics who obviously haven’t been around a high school in 20 years outside of picking their kids up at the drop off spot. But let’s take this to the next level, shall we? If you’re going to criticize the teenagers, why not the adults? The adults act and speak just as unrealistically as the kids in this film do, and yet nobody seems to say a goddamn word about THAT.

In fact, Vanessa (Jason Batemans wife in the film) is the only person in the film who acts and reacts in a believable and rather realistic manner. That’s why you sympathize with her. You shouldn’t sympathize with Batemans character or even Juno because-yes while the are in rather bad situations-they’re both kinda assholes. Even Juno, to a degree, is just a little asshole. But guess what…TEENAGERS ARE ASSHOLES. Batemans character is realistic in the sense of the overgrown man child who can’t let go of his past dreams, but he’s also an asshole. This is why you want to see Vanessa get the kid and just be happy. This is why she’s relatable. Because in a sea of assholes-much like the real world-there’s always one really good person.

Juno is nothing if not a parody of ridiculously cheesy cliche teenage drama pregnancy flicks that take themselves far too seriously to be taken seriously by the audience themselves.

Does the film make some flaws? Every film makes some flaws. Are the films flaws because “the film is only something a dumbed down teenage white person” would like, as I’ve read? No. If anything, that just shows you’re a judgmental asshole. While I said before, Codys work can certainly be seen as polarizing-much like Andersons-her work isn’t BAD. Young Adult was a really good character study, Juno was nothing if not purely entertaining (which is all a movie really all a movie has to be anyway, you hypercritical bastards) and her TV series The United States of Tara is BRILLIANT. Absolutely brilliant.

Does she warrant the kind of hatred she gets? I don’t think so. As I said, I think the mainstream audience needs an indie person to pick on and hate because it’s cool, and she’s the target. Juno is a confidently shot and directed, humorously well written and decently acted film that I believe really began the age of hypercritical film review. And I realize that makes me sound RIDICULOUSLY hipster (“rah rah mainstream audience!”) but I’m coming purely from a filmmaking point of view, as a viewer of the public.

Roger Ebert loved it.
Shouldn’t that speak for something?

Or are you too fucking cool for him too?

Phoebe In Wonderland: Review

There’s a few general themes and motifes that I love:

  • people who are possibly crazy/hallucinating
  • sad, mentally ill little girls
  • Felicity Huffman
And when you put all of these together, you get a movie tailor made for me. Phoebe In Wonderland may have felt about 20 minutes too long-and I say felt because the movie is relatively short, it just FEELS long towards the end-but other than that this thing is great start to finish. Elle Fanning plays Phoebe, a girl with-clearly-some sort of mental illness and her family as they cope with her acting out at school after she gets the lead in the school play for Alice In Wonderland. The film is brightly colored, vibrant and yet has this sad undertone that somehow doesn’t manage to run the bubbly film completely off the rails, which is rare.
The cinematography is OUTSTANDING. Whoever shot this thing should be proud as hell for themselves, because this is one of the most gorgeous films I think I’ve ever seen. Everything is surreal, and magical and yet realistic. Bravo to you. The film does tend to drag in some spots but it’s not often, and for the most part the pacing is pretty good, and the acting is absolutely top notch from everyone involved, including the kids which is not something I praise often. Child actors are usually hit and miss (and more miss often than not, sadly) but every kid in this is pretty outstanding, which is a true achievement in and of itself. Now, perhaps it’s because I dealt with a lot of this kind of stuff myself when I was a child that I’m more biased towards the plight of the lead but I don’t think that’s it. I’m really trying to be as unbiased as possible, and I really do think if you DON’T feel bad for this girl, you have no soul.
Some of the scenes when she’s sad, or being consoled by Felicity Huffman (who played her mother) are just heartwrenching. 10/10 would tear up again.
I think this movie has some very good statements, especially with the best line in the film from Huffman to the child psychologist at one point, which is thusly: “You’re so ready to put a label on things; medicate and move on. Your field is so scared to just let kids be kids.”
As someone who’s ex is in school studying for child psychology and someone who’s been to therapists on and off since her childhood myself, I COMPLETELY agree. While there’s obviously people in the field who do care and want to help children-and as Huffman herself eventually admits, some children DO need help-there’s a LOT of kids who are highly over medicated or wrongly diagnosed simply because they’re different or do things that adults don’t think kids should be doing. 
SPOILER It’s revealed towards the end of the film that Phoebe has tourettes syndrome, but at one point-after watching her daughter count rocks and wash her hands multiple times, and thinking it was OCD-Huffman says to her husband: “When I was a child, I counted telephone poles from the backseat of our car and if I missed one we’d crash and die. It’s just what kids do.” I couldn’t agree more here either. We all had imaginary friends as kids and we all lived in a fantasy type world at one time or another (unless you had no imagination at all whatsoever, in which case, I feel sorry for you, truly) so it’s ridiculous that we just label children today with medical problems before realizing, “Wait, they’re children…”
The acting is superb, the cinematography is top notch, the MUSIC IS OUTSTANDING and overall the film is gorgeous to watch and a very pleasing viewing.
I HIGHLY recommend this film.
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